Last week I flew to the UK for my favourite stage race of the season, the OVO Energy Women’s Tour! This event is proof that a stand-alone women’s race can be wildly successful when given the right support. Everything from the organisation, crowd support, prize money and race coverage make it a highlight of the season for many teams and riders.
I chose an interesting preparation heading into the race, first taking part in Chrono Gatineau in Canada, and then rushing straight to the airport for my international flight to London. I sadly didn’t even have time for the podium ceremony, but the organisers were kindly accommodating. I would not necessarily recommend this plan for recovery, but as one of the six riders to race in every edition of the Women’s Tour, I was determined to not miss it for anything!
Everything about the Women’s Tour is simply World-class. All of the best teams and riders are there in top shape to race for the win, and everything from the hotels, food, logistics, race details, and course routes are held to a very high standard. The race organisers have made it clear that they value women and men equally, and this is also reflected in the prize money offered at the race, which is generous and equal to the men’s Tour of Britain.
Every day there are thousands of fans who show up rain or shine (and there is a lot of rain) to cheer us on. People are just crazy about cycling in Britain! My favourite part is racing past so many schools with students lined up on the streets to cheer us on. Students from different schools also help present the teams at sign on every day. This fan support gives me so much hope for the future of the sport, and gives me the feeling that we might be inspiring the next generation of cyclists with our efforts.
The Women’s Tour also does their part to bring the race to a larger audience with a 1-hour race highlights programme available every evening. The race has played out dramatically in every six editions. The GC is usually determined by seconds, and this year was the closest margin yet, with Lizzie Deignen (Trek) taking the victory over Kasia Niewiadoma (Canyon) by only 2 seconds after six days of racing and a lot of drama throughout the week as the jersey switched shoulders almost every stage. The next step will be securing live coverage, as so much happens in the course of our races that I want fans to be able to understand the full narrative!
One thing I also love is that despite the success of the race, they still want it to be better. This year the race expanded to six stages, where they added a bike park circuit race stage, the first uphill finish, and also featured what I think was the hardest stage to date on a hilly course in Wales. The organisers talk and listen to the teams and riders for ideas on how to improve, and then figure out how to make it happen for the next year.
I always leave the Women’s Tour with shattered legs, but with a mind full of hope and excitement for the future of our sport. I already can’t wait to see what the Women’s Tour 2020 will bring!
I will be back in July with a racing update, until then you can find me on social media @leahkirchmann on Instagram and @L_Kirch on Twitter.